Oct. 6, 2021 – The ongoing pandemic has forced law firms to continually evaluate their ability to provide quality legal services while working in the officer remotely.
If you are transitioning to remote work or want to give your law firm's remote technology a checkup, you'll want to attend the upcoming session, “Upping your Remote Office Game: Prepping Your Firm to Be Flexible,” taking place at the virtual Wisconsin Solo and Small Firm Conference, Oct. 28-30. View the schedule or register now.
State Bar of Wisconsin Law Practice Assistance Manager Advisor Christopher Shattuck (Practice 411™) recently asked solo attorney Brent Hoeft some questions about the program. Hoeft is also the owner of FirmLock Consulting LLC. Both are panelists on the WSSFC technology session. Below is an abridged transcript of their discussion.
What sort of technology can folks expect to hear about during our upcoming presentation?
We have spoken about this in the past. A lot of our focus was more on the mobile lawyer, practicing on the go anywhere, in and out of the office. Obviously, the pandemic has caused longer term out-of-the office work than we ever really anticipated.
The firms that were able to be flexible and pivot handled it quite nicely. Now with having hindsight of what we've gone through, we want to look at the types of technology that you can use and how to set up your practice so you can pivot to a virtual a web-based remote practice as much as possible as often as possible.
We're going to focus a lot on remote desktop protocols, web-based practice management software, which allows your entire office – attorneys, office assistants, and paralegals – to essentially have that whole back-end office, wherever you are.
And also communication tools, because communication is key both between clients and attorneys, as well as your entire staff through your office to keep everybody connected, to keep everybody feeling like they're all working together. So a lot of that is going to be focusing on those tools and how to do that securely.
You mentioned the using different software that may access the cloud virtually remote desktop and then also staff and other attorneys in an office who may be using this type of technology. What are some of the general ethical implications of using technology working remotely and supervising employees?
A lot of it crosses over. The same types of ethical requirements that are required of you using technology within your law firm will apply when you're working remotely.
One of the big difference is that you're all kind of disconnected in a way, you're all on your own, you're in different locations whether that's working from your home office which can have implications in terms of third parties overhearing conversations, video conferencing, stuff like that.
Not only do we have to be competent in the subject matter that we are working with our clients on, but also on the risks and benefits of any technology that we use.
So we need to understand how to securely get into our networks. We need to understand the obligations of attorneys on overseeing how our office managers, paralegals, and associates are working on a day-to-day basis. Everything that was going on or should have been going on in the office applies remotely with some other heightened issues that are presented when you're practicing in a remote practice
I often hear from attorneys concerns about the cost of implementing new technology. Can you explain how many of the technologies we will be discussing are both scalable and affordable?
As technology changes, it changes rapidly and with that often the cost changes rapidly, usually for the better. As more and more competition in the legal practice software market gets out there, the costs will get lower and lower. So when you practice and you have to do it ethically, your obligation is to take reasonable efforts to protect client confidentiality.
What may have been reasonable 10 years ago may not be so today, and vice versa. What could have been thousands of dollars layout overhead may not be reasonable 10 years ago.
A lot of these practice management software document management, document sharing, online backup all of that stuff, has come down drastically to the point where if you're not doing it, you probably aren't meeting your reasonable efforts standard because so much is available and now at a very reasonable cost per month.
Let's now shift to the actual conference. So what is your connection to the Wisconsin Solo and Small Firm Conference and how long have you been attending?
My first year was as a speaker back in 2012. I’ve been attending as a speaker every year since. I think it was 2014, I was asked to be advisory on the tech committee, joined the tech committee and in 2018, I became the co-chair on the tech committee.
I've been going for many years. Sometimes it's a little different, format as it's been the last couple of years but it still is a really valuable conference and evidenced by my involvement. I increased my involvement every year here and happy to do so.
I want to be part of this great conference, by far one of the best conferences in terms of the amount of information, the diversity of information, and the networking with solo and small firms.
They get the problems that you have as a solo and small firm and they're open expanding their networks just as you are. That's what's just really great, the relationships that you make in the long run of attending this conference.
How does attending the conference help make things a little easier for practitioners and what do you see as some of the common big challenges practitioners face who might benefit from attending this conference?
It's really great how they have tracks laid out and you can pick and choose. Some years, you may have gone to some CLEs in your practice area and you got that covered that year. But you're really struggling with something, practice management-related, personnel-related, technology related, and there's always something for someone.
The conference allows you to constantly pick and choose what sounds interesting. Some of these tracks are also recorded.
That that helps a lot because sometimes you can't see it all. It's really great to be able to go back and view something you may have had a conflict with.
I'm sure some folks who are watching this video may be wondering whether they should attend the conference or may be attending the conference for their first time. So what advice would you give to someone contemplating attending their first Wisconsin Solo and Small Firm Conference?
I think this year it's a good year because being virtual this year, as we were last year, gives the opportunity to dip your toe in a little bit. You don’t have to travel. It gives you the opportunity to view the type of quality materials are available.
This year is a little bit different in terms of the networking side of it. We're going to have all kinds of networking opportunities available still.
Obviously, it will be a little bit different, a little bit harder to do versus the actual in-person event, but it's a great way to kind of step off. Maybe you're just a solo starting out or you're a solo that has been practicing for a long time and you want to expand your network. Maybe some solo or small firms in your area don't practice in the areas that you keep having to refer things out to and you just want to expand that network.
It's a great way to meet those types of people, expand your network and utilize this year as kind of a stepping off point and see if you like what you see.